Sensory toys!

Buying toys for kids with autism spectrum disorder can be tricky, especially when so many item are marketed as “sensory”or ASD friendly. 

Fortunately, local families have a special resource for guidance in this area: Creative Kidstuff — a local toy store with seven locations in the Twin Cities, plus online sales — has partnered with St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development of Minnetonka to recommend the best toys for enhancing play and development among children on the spectrum.

Specialists from St. David’s — known for its expertise in early childhood education and specialized autism services — chose more than 100 toys in six skill categories, including social engagement, emotional development, creative thinking, sensory motor development, communication/interaction and cognition/problem solving. 

Go to creativekidstuff.com and click on “CK Autism” on the homepage to see them all. 

For now, here’s a look at a few, sold in stores and online (call ahead to confirm pricing and availability).


Chewigems

Chewable necklaces have come a long way in recent years in terms of style and durability.

Chewigems’ latest options include a raindrop shape that feels like a smooth rock in the hand (at left); a heart cutout that doubles as a squishy fidget; and a skull that’s smooth on one side and bumpy on the other.

Designed for ages 3 and up, they’re made of medical-grade, FDA-approved silicone, plus nylon strings with break-away clasps for safety.

Special skill encouraged: Motor Development / $19.99


Squigz

These suction-cup pieces attach not just to each other, but also to any non-porous surface.

They have funny names — like Pips, Gobnobs and Zorbits — and, when you pull them apart, they emit a delightfully satisfying popping noise.

Size options include regular Squigz (24 pieces) for ages 3 and older, pipSquigz (three large pieces) for ages 6 months and up and Mini-Squigz (75 pieces, pictured) for ages 5 and older.

Bonus: They’re 100 percent silicone and dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.  

Special skill encouraged: Motor Development / $19.99


Rolligo

This toy was a homerun with the toddlers during Minnesota Parent’s 2015 Toy Test — and now it has a Creative Kidstuff / St. David’s seal of approval, too.

Simply stack the toy’s 10 balls into the white, carlike roller. Then push it along the floor to make the balls spin in all directions, like a rack of pool balls being rolled around a billiards table.

Geared toward ages 6 months and up, this tidy little toy is surprisingly fun for all ages. 

Special skill encouraged: Motor Development / $24.99


WhisperPhone Duet

It’s so simple and awesome, you’ll wish you’d thought of it: Two acoustical handsets are linked by a voice tube that expands up to 6 feet. It improves communication skills by encouraging cooperation with the person at the other end of the line, which can build confidence and promote positive interactions in other situations.

Solo versions are available as well for voice-amplifying in educational environments, which can encourage better reading and spelling (and perhaps quieter classrooms).

Bonus: They’re made in the USA and come from a local company, Harebrain of Anoka.

Special skill encouraged: Communication / Interaction / $8.99


Trucky 3

Puzzle play meets toy-truck fun in this game for ages 3 and older, featuring brightly colored shapes that fit neatly inside translucent truck beds.

This Parents Choice, Oppenheim Toy and National Parenting Center award-winner features 48 challenge cards to encourage problem solving, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Special skill encouraged: Problem Solving / $29.99